Panasonic goes big with social TV, green innovations

President Kazuhiro Tsuga showcases its 4K OLED TV, new social TV user interface, a 20-inch 4K tablet, and various green initiatives at CES 2013.

LAS VEGAS--Panasonic officially kicked off the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013 by showcasing its wide range of innovations, from a social user interface (UI) for smart TVs and a 4K OLED TV to energy management for automobiles.

Kazuhiro Tsuga, president of Panasonic, said in his keynote here Tuesday that the company has been commonly known as a TV manufacturer among consumers due to its long history in the business. However, it has increasingly broadened its influence beyond the living room over time to areas such as automotive, retail and avionics, he said.

In its core TV business, though, Tsuga pointed out that consumers today want more than just beautiful displays for their TVs. They are also looking out for easy access to content, a simple, intuitive UI, and the ability to connect to friends and social media contacts, he said.

To meet these demands, Panasonic developed a TV UI that relies on facial recognition tech to pull up the user's home page, and this would include the person's favorite content such as pictures and movies and his online social circle, the president revealed.

Panasonic TV UI
TV users can go online to browse movie catalogs. Credit: James Martin/CNET

The company also partnered with Specific Media to provide content recommendation and targeted advertising services for consumers in the United States. Tim Vanderhook, co-founder and president of Specific Media, said users will be able to get movie and TV program recommendations according to selected parameters and from what their friends are watching.

Panasonic will continue to put the same effort in creating plasma and LED TVs in addition to furthering its software developments and tie-ups, Tsuga assured. To reiterate this, the president, together with Joe Taylor, CEO of Panasonic North America, showcased the company's 56-inch 4K OLED TV which is just half an inch thick and weighs 27 pounds.

Japanese rival Sony Electronics, too, unveiled its prototype 4K OLED TV during its press briefing Monday.

Joe and tablet
Panasonic's Joe Taylor showing off the tablet's 4K display. Credit: James Martin/CNET

The company's strength in digital imaging also spills over into its efforts to address mobile workers' needs. Taylor unveiled the company's first 20-inch tablet equipped with 4K display tech, which he said would help professionals such as architects and photographers to better view and edit their blueprints or images with precision on site, then send back the changes to the company via the Internet.

Green tech key business pillar
Beyond TV and digital imaging, Panasonic has also invested heavily in green technology, particularly in the automotive and avionics industries.

Tsuga shared that his commitment to automobile technology was first sparked when he studied in the United States and drove a 1965 Mustang convertible. Since then, he has led the company to develop lithium-ion batteries for partners such as electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, and energy management capabilities for General Motors.

Its expertise in green technologies also extends to avionics, in which Panasonic has partnerships with 275 airlines and its in-flight communications suite is installed in some 5,000 airplanes, he noted. One of its ongoing projects, for example, is to develop a low-power, lightweight in-flight technology suite for Air New Zealand's fleet of airplanes, and this is scheduled for deployment in 2014, he added.

The Japanese company had said earlier it was banking on green products to boost its earnings . In the Asia-Pacific market, specifically, it is aiming for its eco-friendly products to account for 80 percent of total sales by March 2013--up from the current 70 percent, it said.

Kevin Kwang of ZDNet Asia reported from the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 in Las Vegas, United States.